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A Shared System of Health for Soldiers, Their Families and Veterans #NHITWeek

Military family

During National Health IT Week, champions from across the industry are uniting to share their voices on how health IT is catalyzing change in U.S. healthcare. The following post from a National Health IT Week Partner is one of the many perspectives of how information and technology is transforming health in America.

Ian Francis

At Fort Drum, a military base in rural northern New York, there is a shared system of health.

Since there is no hospital on post, the surrounding healthcare community provides acute, specialty and primary care for soldiers and their families. This integrated system is not without its challenges, but incredible progress has been made to create a coordinated system to support and inform providers on the installation and in the community. The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) is leveraging technology to address challenges in coordinating care.

Access to Health Information

Providers who have cared for soldiers or their family members in their practices have found challenges in getting their patient’s full medical history from the military and vice versa. This can cause administrative burdens, wasted time and gaps in the continuity of care.

So, how do we ensure these brave veterans, who may have been wounded in battle and potentially have post-traumatic stress disorder, get the proper care and ensure that relevant medical records are available?

I was a military servicemember working in military treatment facilities, and I have taken this experience to guide me in my new role as the regional interoperability lead at FDRHPO. We are leveraging technology to increase the quality of care, reduce the cost and enhance the patient experience for our military families and veterans that have given so much.

Tackling the Problem

Fort Drum is one of a few installations that has a Warrior Transition Battalion that cares for wounded warriors with their recovery or transitioning from military service, depending on the extent of their injuries. With the shared system of health, Fort Drum relies on our community hospitals, emergency care and urgent care clinics and specialty care providers to care for these soldiers.

The military helps the transition of wounded warriors from the military service through a veterans’ health information exchange (HIE). Through the HIE, all medical records from a soldier’s military service can be seen by the veteran’s health system, through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or a participating community care provider, so that the soldier’s continuity of care can be maintained.

In the past, those who have worked with the military or tried to get medical records from the military have found that the military electronic health record (EHR) had challenges transferring information to other EHR systems. This leads to paper copies of medical records having to be faxed or mailed and risks possible gaps in records that are lost in the mail or left incomplete due fax machine malfunctions, all of which negatively impacts patient care.

One way our community is working to bridge this gap is through our HIE. Located in Syracuse, New York, it serves the 19 counties in central and northern New York, including the three counties that care for Fort Drum soldiers and their families. In these three counties – Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence – we have 98 percent of the primary care, 100 percent of the hospitals, Fort Drum clinics/providers, specialty care and the VA Health System all connected through the HIE.

Through a secure messaging/email service, Fort Drum sends and receives pertinent medical records directly to the specialty practices. They also receive results through the HIE that are automatically uploaded in the VA’s HIE, closing the circle of care.

This has helped to improve accuracy and diminish gaps in all our patients, but particularly, our wounded warriors. However, we still have areas to improve:

  • Transferring wounded warriors’ information is mostly a way for Fort Drum to receive the results, but the medical information the community receives from Fort Drum is limited. This results in having to manually compile and send medical information to the community practices.
  • Imaging (MRIs, CT scans, etc.) cannot be electronically transferred between the practices and Fort Drum, resulting in either CDs or films having to be hand carried between the practices. This places an unnecessary burden on the patients.

We have had many successes leveraging our HIE; community practices can now review medication lists, past medical and surgical history, allergies, lab results and immunizations so they don’t have to recreate a medical record from scratch.

FDRHPO is continuing to work with Fort Drum, our HIE and our community practices to improve integration. Our vision is a seamless system for all our soldiers, their families, veterans and all the community members that call this region home.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

National Health IT Week | October 8-12

Healthcare Transformation | Access to Care | Economic Opportunity | Healthy Communities

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